Happy Earth Day! Today, April 22, Earth Day celebrations are occurring throughout the United States as well as around the world. This year’s theme, Green Cities, focuses on sustainable communities. Denis Hayes was the first coordinator of Earth Day, an environmental “teach-in” held on April 22, 1970. In the first Earth Day participants from two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States “brought 20 million Americans out into the spring sunshine for peaceful demonstrations in favor of environmental reform.” He founded the Earth Day Network in Washington, DC and expanded it to 192 countries. Time Magazine named him “Hero of the planet” in 1999. His mentor, former US Senator from Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson, originated the idea 44 years ago, in 1970, to promote and support responsible protection of our environment, the Earth. Gaylord Nelson hired Denis Hayes, a student attending the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University to organize the first Earth Day. In 1995, Nelson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his work.
The first to propose an international day to honor the Earth was peace activist John McConnell. His vision, formed at a UNESCO conference on the environment in 1969, included a celebration to be held on the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere: March 21, McConnell’s proposal led to a proclamation signed by Secretary General U Thant at the United Nations in 1971, initiating an annual Earth Day on April 22nd. McConnell later founded the Earth Society in 1976 with anthropologist Margaret Mead.
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